The struggles over the aftermath of Wehrmacht jurisprudence in Austria (after decades of neglect) need to be considered against the background of a complex arrangement in the Second Republic concerning the assessment of National Socialism. On the one hand, the relevant political elites after 1945 considered Austria the victim of an aggressive and expansionist German Reich. According to this so-called victimhood thesis, a powerless Austrian state and population were annexed against their will, and soldiers incorporated into the Wehrmacht were forced to fight a brutal war; this led to widespread popular resistance. This strand of remembrance, which does not correspond to the historical facts, was complemented by a second narrative by the mid-1950s: the »discourse on duty«. According to this interpretation, the roughly 1.3 million Austrians in the Wehrmacht had fulfilled their patriotic duty and (valiantly) fought a war to defend their (Austrian) homeland, while contributing to the struggle against Bolshevism in Europe.
For these narratives of memory to become dominant, specific forms of forgetting were needed. Soon after the establishment of the Second Republic, this came at the cost of the actual victims of National Socialism: those persecuted for racist, political, religious and other reasons, including deserters and those »undermining the military forces« who had done the right thing according to the victimhood thesis – using their disobedience to resist tyranny. The goal of this strenuous historical-political effort was to pacify differences in the assessment of National Socialism and Austrofascism (1934 – 1938) especially between SPÖ and ÖVP, two political parties that often wound up forming coalition governments together.